Ideas/History of the complex relationship between science and religion. Looking into the future

Ideas/History of the complex relationship between science and religion.  Looking into the future

Written by Niccolo Pozzato ______

It seems that modern man is only motivated by the impulse to possess matter. Is this really the magic formula that should solve all our problems? “

Wednesday, June 22, 1633. Rome, Court of the Holy Inquisition.

Seventy-year-old Galileo Galilei kneels before the Cardinal Inquisitors of the Holy See and utters the sentences that will make up his famous disguise: “With a sincere heart and pure faith, I deny, curse and abhor the above errors and heresies.If in the eyes of Galileo’s contemporaries these words “only” sounded like the end of the great Pisanian thinker’s tale, we are now able to read something else: Galileo Galilei’s renunciation represents a tombstone to the thriving relationship that has bound for centuries religion and science.

If it is true that the “scientific” credibility of the Ptolemaic theories contained in the Bible began to waver with the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance, they were dealt the first real blow with the seminal publication of Nicolaus Copernicus, De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, 1543), text Reference to Galileo and his heliocentric theories. At first it was believed that the earth is, and then man, placed by God at the center of the universe, but with Copernicus this belief collapsed. Friedrich Hegel, in his Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences in Abstract (1817), spoke of historical cosmological individuals, those clairvoyants capable of making history, going beyond their own time.

It is natural to recognize in the words of a German philosopher such as Kepler, as well as the figures of Copernicus and Galileo. They were, in fact, the ones who started what has historically been referred to as the scientific revolution (it was officially launched by the aforementioned publication of Copernicus).

Just as the main product of the French Revolution was the rise of the bourgeoisie and the collapse of the nobility, the scientific revolution consisted in establishing the scientific method and abandoning the dogmas associated with religious faith. Symbolic are the words of the method’s greatest proponent, Galilei himself, who wrote in a letter dated 1615 addressed to Madama Christina (Maria Cristina de Lorena): “Science tells us how the sky works, while religion tells us how the sky works“.

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The caesura is obvious now and even then it was supposed to be incurable in the eyes of those who were one of its chief architects. We mentioned earlier the fact that the relationship between science and religion has not always been one of conflict, on the contrary, they have been bound together in some way for a long time. Scientific knowledge in the Middle Ages was in the hands of the clergy. Everyone has at least once heard, for example, of the famous monks-scribes, highly educated men to whom we owe, among other things, most of the classical texts that have come down to us today. It goes without saying, but it is only right to remember that they have a cultural approach based on the Bible. The question that now arises spontaneously is how dogmatic faith can be included in purely scientific research. To answer, it is necessary to depart from that approach typical of modern man who sees God and science as parallel lines.

The words of Saint-Pierre Damiani, an eleventh-century theologian, come to our aid, making us understand the mentality of that time by writing: “Belief in God favors the study of the external and material worldIt was religion itself, in this context, that drove the will of men to know the laws of God’s creation. And it was that drive of the desire to understand the Creator that actually led Copernicus to formulate his treatises and Galileo to follow.

Let’s summarize what has been said so far. For centuries science and religion were one entity whose goal was to be able to explain creation and give an explanation to the prime mover. The scientific revolution then led to a clash between the two opinions, in a process that we call the antithesis Hegelian dialectics. Two formerly united elements fighting fiercely with each other.

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The conflict was exacerbated by the Enlightenment, which flatly rejected the ideas promulgated by the Church. Man, according to the Age of Enlightenment, should be guided by reason.

Aude knows! Dusting off Horace, Kant said, he called on the man to have the courage to use his wit. We must not, however, think that the Enlightenments were all atheists. Kant himself, one of the great sons of the Enlightenment, came to postulate the existence of God and the immortality of the soul (see Critique Practical Reason, 1788. As for the rest of those who belonged to that movement which marked the eighteenth century to a great extent, reprehensible religious treatises. For example, but not limited to, Voltaire criticized the Inquisition.

So we can say that it was not ideas about something divine that were denied, but Christianity. The movement that was born in Europe at that time was deism, which recognized the existence of an organizing and rational principle. Driven by the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution was able to explode at the end of the eighteenth century. We men of the twenty-first century are direct descendants of all the events described here: century after century, the gap between the opinions of religion and science has done nothing but widen. The advent of industrialization, historical materialism, communism, evolution, and Freudian psychoanalysis exacerbated the conflict born in the heart of the second millennium.

An essential point must now be emphasized: the point described here is the history of the relationship between science and religion from the point of view of the Western context. We should not think that this process has been repeated all over the world, on the contrary. So far, the conflict we have talked about so much is, in fact, one of the main keys to explaining the most obvious ideological divide that occurs among human beings. Gallup International has been involved in the collection and measurement of statistical data on religious orientation among the world’s citizens. From the title of their study published in 2017, “Religion reigns supreme in the world,” it is clear how exactly the situation in the world is reversed between high- and low-income countries.

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In areas where the only deity venerated is “money”, the number of the population identifying itself as religious is less than 50% (the minimum percentage is reached in Western Europe), as opposed to 70% in traditional countries. The fact remains that 62% of the world’s population self-identifies as religious, again according to Gallup International.

And the percentage rises even more if one only considers belief in God or not, as 71% of the nearly 63,000 people interviewed answered in the affirmative.

The implications that results of this kind bring are very significant: in a world where challenges are labeled “universal,” can one have such a paradoxical view on such an important point in life? The West has tried to impose its views (with good morals but above all) without succeeding, for the time being, in its intentions. The risk of losing one’s individuality in today’s context is very high. The loss of values ​​and traditions throws people into chaos. Just as in the Middle Ages the ideas that ignored the Bible were rejected, today, in the West, the same fate is being made by all those axioms, those feelings so characteristic of man and which contradict the sought-after “scientific proof”. It seems as if modern man can only be moved by a movement towards the possession of matter.

Is this really the magic formula that is supposed to solve all our problems? Can the educational role of religions really be set aside?

Can we let the western world abandon religious values ​​so easily? ______

From “Voices of Peace” – Q2 2023.

Niccolò Pozzato is a first-year student in psychology at Sigmund Freud University, D.C
Milan.

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